Friday’s Focus—Being Grateful and Yet…

Recently I’ve noticed when I ask people how they are, their response is a shrug of their shoulders as they say “I’m alright. I’ve got a job.” All in all this is great but what struck me was the tone of resignation, like there’s nothing more. There’s something to be said for being grateful for what you have—a job for example, which these days is a biggie. But, it’s the resignation in the tone that’s been bothering me. Call me a dreamer but I don’t believe in settling. There’s more. There’s always more of a quality of life that we can attain, rather than a quantity of things in our lives that so many of us seem to reach toward instead.

It’s a fact that to survive in today’s economy, daily living has become hinged on a paycheck and benefits. But that’s not living. That’s existing. To me, living means thinking, creating, moving, doing. Not just hanging on to the gray thread of a paycheck. To me, that’s dying. I believe in staying hungry. Staying curious. Yes, there’s always a worse off way to be but that doesn’t mean one has to remain placated and resigned.

Stay grateful but also stay alive! Find something each day that piques your curiosity, something that makes you wonder, laugh, even cry because all of the emotions have a place, but whatever you do, don’t die while you’re still living. Live, love, laugh, be hungry, be curious, and you’ll be grateful for what you’ll find.




Friday’s Focus—Get in Trouble

Not the kind you need a lawyer for but the kind that will put a smile on your face and make you feel like a kid again. With the beginning of a holiday weekend only hours away and fresh page on the calendar, it’s as good a time as any to go do a little something or go a little somewhere that’s been nipping at your heels but somewhere along the line you decided you were too old for it, had no time for it, or were too busy for it.

Shake it up and shake it off. Stop looking at your phone, take off that watch, and close that laptop. Get the wind in your hair, your hands a little dirty and be a little more flexible with the day.

Surrender to the what if’s and why not’s and indulge that part of you that you would if you could but you decided you couldn’t so you didn’t and go have a blast!

There’s always time for the responsible stuff in life and it’s easy to forget that it’s just as important to take some time out for play.

Taking things deeper doesn’t always mean taking things more seriously. Sometimes we feel we need permission to do things we feel we “shouldn’t” or “aren’t supposed to” because we’re adults. The only permission you need is the one you give yourself. What are you waiting for?



Friday’s Focus—Sidetracked

The roots of the trees veined the road with some pieces poking through like bones; the roots so close to the surface it was just a matter of time before they were revealed by wind, rain, and tires and bleached white by the sun. Between exposed tree roots and ruts cut by heavy rains, driving over 20 mph made the car bounce like a carnival ride. I creeped along gripping the wheel, eyes constantly scanning the road ahead as I craned my neck out the window now and then to try and see around the bend a promise of a smoother road, but all I got was a sore neck and tired eyes.

Crawling along this stretch of road, it felt like the trees and birds were my only company. I continued to scan for holes and hills and eventually relaxed my body into the  roll and sway of the car as it dipped and climbed. Low stone walls appeared here and there broken only by a car-width dirt path leading up into the tree line. The fire numbers were the only other indication that people lived out here.

Isn’t it funny how it seems when we rush the most we find ourselves delayed even more—you’re late for an appointment and you get behind a slow driver; you spill something and you have to change your clothes; you run into construction on the road; your son forgot to fill the gas tank last night when he borrowed the car so now you need to make an extra stop this morning; it’s your turn to bring snacks for your daughter’s homeroom party but she didn’t tell you until the morning of, so it’s an impromptu trip to the market.

Or, you decided to take a side road home because you thought it would be a short cut and instead you find yourself crawling along a worn out road layered in alternating sections of gravel and dirt, and which is taking you much longer than if you just stayed on the road you knew.

I believe in being at the right place at the right time, and if I hadn’t taken that side road and forced to go so slow, would I have noticed the stream making its path down the mountain into a small gully carpeted with moss? Would I have heard the crows’ jeers and the scream of a hawk overhead as it was being harassed by the crows and chased from their territory? Would I have noticed the burst of Queen Anne’s Lace amidst a blanket of ferns? Probably not. And I wouldn’t have noticed the take your breath away beauty of the God sky as I finally came out into a clearing.

What I most likely would have noticed was a road, trees, water, birds, flowers, rocks, and clouds. Just things in my line of vision. If I wasn’t forced to slow down, I probably would have missed the beauty, breathlessness, and the God of what is behind all those labels.

Sometimes it’s not such a bad thing to be late or delayed. More than once I’ve wondered if there was something unknown and unseen that causes these delays for who knows why.

So maybe this time it was to show me—remind me—that there is more to watch and look at then a clock and the next appointment and errand.

p.s. I finally made it home only 10 minutes late, but with views I’ll never forget!



Friday’s Focus—Again

It’s been some time since I’ve been here last. Did you miss me? I did! Literally. Things have been so hectic with the selling and moving from our home to not only a new house but a new state,  I feel as though I lost myself in the process. Everything was put on hold that didn’t have to do with the day job, lawyers, bankers, or real estate agents. The only writing I was doing were checks and emails. Subjects of blogs and short stories swirled in my head borne out of people we met and circumstances but there they stayed, behind the wall of my mind and never making it beyond the thought, “Oh, I should write about that.” It’s time to breathe life into those stories and writings again.

Last night, I decided enough was enough and sat down to the keyboard to let my fingers do the walking so my mind can do the talking, and well, here we are. Again. Still feeling my sea legs in the new place, I look for corners and spaces as new homes for my yoga mat and books. Settling into a daily routine of day job mixed in with the new neighborhood sounds will take awhile, but in the meantime, I’m growing accustomed to the sounds of hammers and saws sprinkled with a few swear words from my husband, which has actually been helpful to use as a gauge on how well (?) repairs have been going!

This move is the cap of what has been a fierce 8 months (actually the last 3 years) of continuous major life events. Feeling tense and uptight had become very familiar feelings for me. Sitting within these new four walls, with the dust settling and the boxes slowly being unpacked, I can still feel the anxiety continue to surround me, which is exactly what I had wanted to change. “Maybe it’s too soon,” I tell myself. “I need to give myself time to slow the twitching and unwind from the hectic pace,” I add.

Almost as a ready response, I hear the words “no matter where you go, there you are” echo through my head and immediately recognize the truth in it. No matter where you go—house, hut, country, or planet you move or travel to, if the changes you seek aren’t made within, it won’t matter what zip code you land in.

I knew better than to expect a complete whoosh of having all my problems disappear as I watched the tail lights of the moving truck leave, but I guess to be honest, on some deep level, I must have expected it to happen all the same.

How we experience things all comes from our perspective, and if our perspective, our basic way of seeing something, doesn’t change, our experiences and our views will continue to be more of the same. This week, as I get myself back into my writing, and once again set my sight on the changes I want to make within (and without), I’m consciously refining my perspective of what each day can bring. This is not about seeing the world through rose-colored glasses but rather taking off those glasses to get a clearer and more honest view. One of the simplest and most profound ways of doing this is by intention, which is something we can all do.

Even if you don’t have any plans of moving or traveling any time soon, you can still set your intention and perspective anew each day and welcome yourself home.



Friday’s Focus—A Page Is Worth a Thousand Memories

Still deep in the process of cleaning up and boxing for our move, I came across a stack of journals I wrote many years ago while in my late teens, through college, and into the end of my first marriage. The notebooks were squirreled away in a corner of the garage interspersed with high school and college yearbooks. A cardboard box of memories now wrapped in spiderwebs and reeking of mold.

I knew I couldn’t keep them smelling the way they did but I couldn’t bring myself to just toss them either. So I blew off the dust, found myself a seat and flipped through them one last time before they were forever history. I was feeling an odd mixture of curiosity and trepidation—heck, I remember those years. Did I really want to go back there? But instead I found reading the entries again to be revelatory. It’s amazing how our memories gloss over seemingly innocuous details that feel as big as the sun when they first happen. And yes, there were some of those dreams in there that I haven’t achieved but it was okay because I can still say not achieved yet.

There were names and events that I barely remembered, if at all, but the key players were there still as sharply in focus as yesterday. It was fascinating to look back and see how my experiences and feelings shaped me into who I am today. But the most surprising reveal was seeing patters of thinking and beliefs from back then and (deep breath here), seeing and admitting I still have them today.

The patterns of thinking and believing wouldn’t have been so obvious had I not read these journals. Admittedly, it was a little disconcerting to discover how feelings of insecurity, shame, and fear had their seeds in those pages and how they’ve remained as unconscious patterns now. But I also saw patterns of strength, fight, resolve, and determination that also had its seeds back then, and which have also remained to this day, far outweighing the insecurities and fears thanks to experiences and time.

There were some hurtful events that came back in vivid detail, and as they did, I almost felt like a mother to myself, sending the younger me love and understanding back through time. It provided an unexpected opportunity for the healing of my younger self, which in turn, heals my current self.

There were good memories of sun, friends, going down the shore, and countdowns to last days of classrooms and some not so good memories. These were snapshots of daily life and growing up in the typical highs and lows of a Jersey girl moving from her adolescence through her first marriage.

I saw myself from the inside out because it was me but also from the outside in, reading about my feelings and experiences as if they happened to someone else. I didn’t expect this as I started to flip through the earliest book, but before I knew it, I caught myself searching for the girl I knew I was and connecting with her as the woman I grew up to be.

By the time I read my way through to the last journal, I was ready to let them go, but I wanted to do so with some sort of dignity rather then tossing them into the trash, so I let my inner artist come through. I filled the kitchen sink with water and bunch by bunch, tore the pages from the notebooks and soaked them in the water. I watched my handwriting disappear as the ink washed away.

After a few hours, the water now looked like a mini-lake with its blue water and the paper pulped back to its beginnings. I grabbed handfuls of the mush and squeezed them into small balls of paper—no hint or evidence of the words they once contained. As I worked the paper in my hands, I once again took on the role of Mother to the younger me and consciously connected the disconnects. I wasn’t sad about giving up the pages and notebooks now. As a mater of fact, I felt it was a gift to go through them again and cathartic to wash the pages away.

I’m glad I kept them all these years. I don’t think I ever intended to re-read them. Once the last page was filled, up it went on a shelf until I didn’t know when. But now, I do. I’m interested to see what will reveal itself when I read my current writings 30 years from now.

A written page is worth a thousand memories and staying open to what was can only lead to a better way of what will be.



Friday’s Focus—Warning: You May be Hazardous to Your Health

Did you ever put your hand in a cookie jar, and while you’re in there, think maybe you’ll take one or two more (since you’re there already, of course!) only to find you can’t fit your fist back out of the opening? Holding on to things that are bigger than us can be like that. It will keep us stuck in a place and unable to move forward unless we loosen our grip and let go. Even by one cookie.

There aren’t many of us who haven’t been touched by the increasing stresses and demands of family, job, and basic day to day living. These increases seemed incremental at first but lately feel like giant leaps forward, making things feel harder to manage. Our first normal reaction is to hold on to what we have and what we know, not just for a sense of security but for a feeling of normalcy, while we try and understand what’s happening. But working to maintain that control over time can do more harm than good. It’s hard to let go, yes, I’ll admit. Even for people who are seasoned in surrendering to what is, can be caught off-guard by news or events and they, too, can reactively close their mental fist as a reaction to hold on.

We can’t always control our surroundings and our circumstances, but we can control our actions and reactions. One of the ways to do this is to listen to our body. While our mind is busy keeping track and being in control, our body’s are locked into a response of flight or fight. You may think you are in control, but your body is probably telling you a completely different story.

Neither one can win alone. That sore throat may not be the beginnings of a cold or that sneezing fit may be more of a stress reaction than an increase in the pollen count.  Our bodies will give us clues to the level of stress we’re experiencing even if we feel that we are in control and handling everything well. The physical signs of stress can be very subtle and easy to brush off as symptoms of other things: catching a cold; getting older; something eaten or drank that’s not sitting well; a bad night’s sleep; not enough sleep; and explaining eczema and skin rashes away as  reactions to a new laundry detergent are just a few examples.

While these signs could be genuine indications of deeper underlying physical problems, if you experience any of these longer than you think you should, it may be time to do an honest mental and emotional check-in to see if there is something you may be blocking or burying but your body won’t let you. It’s also a good idea to also consider the words we use in our thinking. When we tell ourselves “I’m so sick of my job” or “I’m so tired of so-and-so’s drama”, it can have a physical impact. Sick and tired. Those are the words your body intuits, understands, and listens to.

Studies have shown that by paying attention to our breath we can “check in” where we are and use it as a means of re-connecting body and mind. I’ve used this countless times on myself. It’s an ideal gauge of where we think we are versus where are bodies are telling us we really are. For example, shallow breathing is an indication of fear, however conscious or unconscious that feeling is. Long-term shallow breathing reduces the amount of oxygen to your organs, resulting in a myriad of problems including cloudy thinking.

Pay attention to your breath. Pranayama is one of the most important self-cares you can do in times of stress. Without breath we have nothing. Our bodies can survive without some organs, limbs, loss of senses, but it cannot survive without breath. Conscious breathing will not only feed the body with oxygen but it pulls the attention away from the mind, away from the stress, away from the worry at least even for a moment. Practicing pranayama brings the mind and body together and reconnects any disconnects.

It’s absolutely natural to hold on and try and retain some sort of status quo especially these days in the midst of so much tension. Living in our modern society and current levels and outpouring of demands can be hazardous to our health if not approached well. Attempting to control situations and outcomes may seem to work in the short run but no good can come out of it in the long term.

Those that do, miss out on a lot more than the amount of control they gain. So take a moment, and catch your breath!

#takingitdeeper #healingourselvesfromtheinsideoutIMG_0613

Friday’s Focus—Something From Nothing

There are some days, as a writer, it feels like I have nothing to say. The muse is off playing with the dog or helping some other writer slouched over their keyboard. Sometimes all that seems to fill a page are half sentences or phrases that start out hopeful but stop short of being anything more than a glorified bunch of nouns, verbs, and adjectives and the paper is littered with the glitter of wanna-be quips and stories.

For me, the way ideas come and thoughts develop into whatever they want—stories, poems, essays, doodles—changes depending on the medium I use to bring it forward with. It’s been interesting to notice how characters change and the endings shift depending on whether I use a computer or a good old-fashioned pen and paper. Hands down, my favorite way to write, or at least get started, is using pen and paper. I’m an admitted paper-a-holic and just can’t resist blank notebooks; paper that just begs to be written on. The pen also needs to be right and together, in the right combination, it’s as though the story is already there and the ink simply reveals it.

Writing with a pencil gives an entirely different feeling. I find my writing takes on more of the feeling of a doodle and I tend to edit more. The words feel “sketched” and less “committed” than ink. Writing with ink is like changing your Facebook status to “in a relationship.”

Finally, there’s the keyboard. I find that writing on a computer releases a completely different stream of consciousness. This may be the easiest of all to write with but it is also the coldest and least personal way of working to me.

Of course, I can, and have begun writing something with one medium and switched over to another (beginning with pen and then moving to keyboard) and every time I do the story changes—for better or for worse. I’m not talking about editing or revisions but rather that fact that I experience a distinctly different flow with each medium and the words just come out different.

When I began to write today’s post, I couldn’t find the rhythm no matter what I tried to write with. In a last attempt, I opened my laptop and like a Seinfeld episode (which is really about nothing), I began to write about nothing, but it ended up turning into a something (which is still about nothing). So this is my Seinfeld post; one that is really about nothing except to say whether you’re a writer, an artist, a musician, a chef, or you do anything that’s creative, if you’ve found your usual way of doing things isn’t working so well and you feel that your muse has abandoned you, try things from a different angle and see what happens. Don’t stop. You never know what something will come out of your “nothings”!

Have a great weekend!



Friday’s Focus—A Note to a Friend

A truly personal “catching the tiger by the tail” moment in which I was simply the medium for the way this poem came through. This has been a week of transitions and moments of movement and movement and movement of people and events, all with a surprising softness in its unfolding. It’s almost as though the blocks and stop-gaps of the past few months’ energy is slowly exhaling her release and like a pebble thrown into the water, the circles are gently lapping outward ever wider. Borne to me early one morning, here is a poem called, A Note to a Friend:

Butterfly kisses and
Ladybug hugs.
Rainy day rainbows,
And fat, garden slugs.

With some tea in our cups,
We sit, you and I.
Two good friends…still…
All these years, by and bye.

We’ll talk of days past
And the hours to come;
Watch dragonflies and sparrows,
And maybe hear honeybees hum.

Neither distance nor years
Can keep us apart as dear friends.
All the magic’s still here,
Seen through a kaleidoscope lens.

Our cups, they’re now empty,
And the church bells, they chime.
This is not a good-bye
But rather, so long… ’till next time.



Friday’s Focus—Setting the Timer

All good things in moderation. How about all things in moderation? Good is subjective. It’s good to have a job but if you’re working 10 to 12 hours a day, unless you’re throughly in love with what you’re doing, it’s not so good. If it’s not our jobs, many of us find ourselves giving to our spouses, our children, our families, our committees,  and our friends. Did I miss anyone? Oh, yeah. When do we give to ourselves?

Commitment is commendable but so often, and so quickly, we find ourselves chasing our own tail and living in fear of making sure we did what we were supposed to and make sure all angles are covered.

Each one of us has a personal motivation for doing what we do and for however long and hard we choose to do them. Typically, the urgency and frenetic energy of the “hamster on a wheel life” starts to feel like the norm and anything otherwise can tend to make us feel lost or like we’re missing or forgetting something.

I think we all know on a root level when we are doing too much and become out of balance. Once we see it, it becomes a matter of taking our attention deeper and consciously setting the timer to approach whatever we’re doing in a manner more aligned with balance of anything that’s been missing (or been pushed out).

It’s not just important but imperative to our mental health (which influences our physical health) to find that benchmark within us and understand the driving force behind what is creating the one-sidedness and drive.

The realization came for me as an almost physical click. Sitting quietly one day, my monkey mind was incessantly chattering away as it swung from thought to thought “And then this [inhale] but then what if [exhale] oh yeah and then that [inhale]…” when suddenly I felt a tug in my solar plexus and a loud “NO” reverberate through me.

I was done. Cooked. In all of its frenetic energy that monkey ripped away a veil that had been covering what I finally recognized as feelings of fear I was using as my drive: fear of missing something, and then the deeper dirt-honest fear of not being good enough and making mistakes.

So, now what? So now I set the timer. Some time for this. Some time for that. Like a New Year’s resolution, it’s so easy to set an intention, but it’s another to put it into action. Recognizing and understanding motivations is a great start. To make any sort of difference though, we need to go the next step and put the intentions into action.

No matter how good we are at our jobs, at our roles of parent or spouse, it’s impossible to cover all angles all of the time and make sure that something isn’t overlooked there, or a skinned knee is missed here. Sometimes we need to set a timer on our overload of one-sidedness. Making a mistake is not a taboo. Wearing a band-aid is not the end of the world. You’ll live. We don’t need a permission slip from anyone else but ourselves. And admittedly, sometimes that’s the hardest permission to get.



Friday’s Focus—Retrograde

It’s been quiet on the front of lilypadheart and Friday Focus and for that I apologize. These last few weeks have been a cauldron of computer issues, delays, lack of communication and when there was some, it was miscommunication. Problems would not go away and there were days (there still are) where I feel wrapped in a sticky web that I can’t shake off. You know when you have that one piece of tape or plastic that attaches to you by static and no mater how much you try, you can’t get it off? It just moves from one part of your hand to another? Yeah. It’s been like that.

Is it just having a bad day (okay, a string of bad days)? Is it just bad luck? Is it Mercury in Retrograde being it’s worse bad-ass self than ever? A lot of people I talk to are going through the same thing right now. In the past, I would lightly, almost jokingly, attribute these life hiccups to Mercury being in Retrograde but this time, I’m not joking when I say it because there is definitely something in the air. This is the second Mercury Retrograde this year and it’s been the worst one I can remember. Or maybe it’s just that there’s more at stake and going on right now and so more things can get out of whack.

If you Google Mercury Retrograde 2016, you’ll get 1,610,000 hits. Mercury Retrograde alone will bring you even more information and opinions with 2, 070,000 hits. There’s a lot being said out there about it, and now of course, you can add today’s post (Hit 1,610,001). So, what can I say that will make any dent to what is already out there? Just to add my personal learning perspective in that the one thing these last few weeks have taught me is to be more flexible, and I have been; stretching beyond limits more than I thought was possible or I was capable of.

I’m learning to sit tight and hang on. These days I’ve never felt more challenged (or exhausted) from the constant barrage of problems and delays, with past haunts and issues rearing their heads. Some days it seems impossible that one more thing can go wrong (but it does) and I don’t know if it’s because of the Retrograde or not (but I can’t ignore the coincidence). The last weeks have been an uphill battling resolving past matters and new ones in a David and Goliath kind of way. I know this is true for many of you and I hear it from other people I know going through the same thing (small solace in that—it’s not just me!). It’s hard, but if we can grab a moment to catch our breath, we can see that this is the perfect time to look back on our actions with a new perspective and turn a new face toward healing and cleaning things up.

I believe that a positive spin to the effects of Mercury in Retrograde is to let it be our teacher. Just when we think we are pushed to the edge of what we can take, MR takes that line in the sand and moves it just a bit more out of reach; pushing  us to  go beyond any limits we have set for ourselves—physically and emotionally.

There is a moving box in my living room that has “Fragile” stamped across it. It’s been there for a while but it wasn’t until the other day when I realized the sidewalk oracle-message of it and how it perfectly captured how I was feeling. Though I may feel fragile right now, I know I am stronger than that. We are all stronger than we think we are despite how fragile we may feel on the inside.

May 22, the last day of Mercury in Retrograde for this month, can’t come fast enough, but with an eye toward the calendar, and a little bit of extra flexibility, humor, and patience we can make it through and come out the other side, ready to greet the next one with minimal scrapes and a new perspective.